I used to really beat myself up for having extreme emotional reactions.
I’d find myself in a situation that triggered my stress response – the brain’s emergency ‘fight or flight’ system – when it wasn’t actually warranted. Like getting a crummy performance review at work, or missing a flight.
And I would start to get really frustrated with myself for even having that reaction at all.
I felt like I must be faulty. Like there must be something wrong with me. Like if I just read one more self-help book I wouldn’t be in this situation!
But the truth is, my stress response was being triggered simply because I am human, and my brain had perceived a threat. It took me a long time to really start understanding and believing that.
Here are a few key takeaways I’ve learned along the way.
Really get to know what the stress response looks like (and feels like) for you. It’ll be a little different for everyone, but the same basic principles apply.
You might feel an adrenaline rush, your heart rate increasing…
And like you can’t think straight, because your brain’s frontal cortex has been hijacked…
Maybe you’re overwhelmed by negative thoughts, seeing only worst-case scenarios…
It’s important to educate yourself on what the stress response really looks like, so that you can begin to combat these symptoms as they arise.
I know for me, simply knowing that my stress response has been triggered aids in my de-escalation.
I know, this sounds crazy. You might be thinking, how the heck am I supposed to feel gratitude for this feeling?!
But at its core, the stress response is your body’s way of protecting you. It is trying to help you.
In situations where your stress response is triggered, but you are not actually in present danger, learn to soften towards it.
Instead of getting frustrated with your intense emotions, recognize that your brain is just trying to look out for you, and thank it.
Once you can spot the stress response as it’s beginning to hijack your brain, you now have the power and responsibility to disarm it.
Slow down, breathe, do what you need to do in order to de-escalate. Recognize that you are safe.
This is what we do best here at Stress Reset – help you learn about the science behind the stress response, arm you with the tools needed to de-escalate, and share practical applications for those tools in your everyday life.